The sun could soon be setting on the 50 over game
Matthew Hayden says 50 over cricket is as cooked as a BBQ snapper. In the mind of Shane Warne, it’s as over as his marriage, though he believes it should be resuscitated every four years for the World Cup. 50 over cricket, that is.
Even Cricket Australia is reducing next year’s domestic one day cricket program, after tinkering heavily with the format this year, in the surest sign yet officialdom is downgrading its commitment to one day cricket. That, after it did away with the 12 match triangular series two years ago in favour of a more streamlined summer international 50 over program.
The fact is, 50 over cricket is a game being squeezed out of existence.
As Test cricket retains its primacy as the purest form of the game, and T20 thrives at international level, and in domestic leagues like Australia’s Big Bash and India’s IPL, the poor old one-dayer is becoming the unloved middle child.
This might sound crazy as the World Cup kicks off, with all the hype that goes with it. But there’s a good argument the world’s best cricketers are currently battling for the title of champions of a dying game.
The irony of the possible demise of the One Day International is we’ve just passed the milestone of the 40th anniversary of the first ODI match.
Amazingly, the words “tradition” and “one day cricket” are no longer out of place in the same sentence. You’d have been taken out the back and shot if you predicted that in the era of Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket. But ODIs now have pride of place in our collective memory banks.
We will never forget the Michael Bevan game, when the Aussie leftie hit that last-ball four straight down the ground against the Windies in 1996.
We’ll always remember the chaotic mad scenes in the tied semi final against South Africa in the 1999 World Cup, and Steve Waugh’s “you just dropped the World Cup” sledge during his century the match before.
Neither can we forget the two World Cups Australia won after that, to make it three straight, including Andrew Symonds’ breakthrough ton against Pakistan in 2003 and Gilly’s brutality in the final in the Windies in 2007.
And anyone older than Gen Y will well recall Australia’s surprise 1987 Cup triumph under Allan Border, a victory that set the tone for 20 years of Australian dominance at both Test and one day level.
Those are just the memories viewed through green and gold goggles. We haven’t even touched on Sachin Tendulkar’s incredible, unthinkable 46 ODI centuries, including last year’s incredible double century. Or the ODI heroics of players like Wasim Akram, Viv Richards or Lance Klusener.
Oh, and not forgetting my personal favourite, Chrus Herrus, otherwise known as the brilliant bald NZ all-rounder Chris Harris.
The point is, while there have been loads of forgettable one dayers, as there have been forgettable Test matches, the rich 40 year history of one day cricket makes a mockery of the term hit-and-giggle – a putdown which is now reserved for T20. The ODI has deservedly become a cherished form of the game.
But times change. The world moves on. And there is now simply too much cricket on the table with three competitive forms of the game.
No other sport has this dilemma. Rugby has its traditional XVs and its novelty 7s, which weirdly enough, will soon be an Olympic sport as T20 may one day be. But cricket is alone in trying to balance three versions of itself. Ask Shane Warne how hard it is to keep three lovers going simultaneously. Actually, don’t.
Part of the problem is meaningless matches. When Australia played the seventh, utterly meaningless one dayer against England in Perth recently, leading the series 5-1, selectors were criticised for leaving out star players.
I’m on the players’ side. No offence to the fine city of Perth, but who wants to catch the red-eye with nothing on the line, and two much longer flights the week afterwards to India? The answer to the well-documented problem of player burnout is surely player rotation.
That said, the fan outcry is understandable. You pay your money, you deserve to see the best of the best, especially when a team takes the field calling itself “Australia”. A team with that title should not be, oh, some blokes with kangaroos and emus on their passport who happen to know how to bat or bowl a bit. It should be the 11 best Australians available for that format.
But that’s not always possible now. How can it be when players have the competing demands of two, maybe three forms of the same game. Most players are now only specialising in two forms of the game, like Cameron white, who plays only limited overs cricket, or Clarke and Ponting, who have both dropped T20 for Tests and ODIs.
All the same, wouldn’t it be preferable if the Test guys were were always fresh for Tests, the T20 guys were always fresh for T20s, and those few who truly excel at both - like Shane Watson - were always available for both forms.
Putting the cherished ODI to sleep would enable that. Like I say, no one wants to do this. But this is about a bigger picture. Hey, even the cute dogs at the pound get the needle sometimes.
Right now, the ICC has no plans to shelve 50 over cricket. But you can bet that less ODIs will be played between this World Cup and the next. And even fewer between the next two, as the 50 over game eventually dwindles into irrelevance.
As for Shane Warne’s idea of retaining the World Cup while playing no one dayers between times, forget it. To use another animal analogy, that’s like preserving a critically endangered species in a zoo with no intention of reintroducing it to the wild. You might as well give up.
Cricket needs room to breathe. As Aron Ralston, the real life hero behind the hit movie 127 hours showed, sometimes you have to amputate a limb to save the body.
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